It takes 1,300 hours of training over 32 weeks before a recruit can graduate from the academy and join the Dallas police force – a schedule that mixes long hours of class work with intensive field training, says the Dallas Morning News. No lesson plan can completely prepare someone for the unpredictable nature of police work, where an ordinary traffic stop can go south in a split second. On a week that saw the violent death of a police officer, recruits spoke not about looking for a job with a steady paycheck, but of answering a calling that might require them to knock on the door of a gun-wielding drug dealer.
At 44, Thomas Coval had spent years in soul-deadening jobs that had taken him far beyond his boyhood dream: to become a police officer and help his community by putting away the bad guys. He drifted into sales – first with cars, then advertising. Last May. Coval took several months to get in shape and quit smoking, dropping 20 pounds. He started at the academy last fall. “I am not a Dallas police officer yet, but there is a bond of brotherhood,” he said, especially after the death of a colleague. “You feel for the officer’s family. It’s one of your own.” Lt. Vernon Hale, 39, who took over as commander of basic training in November, said there is no specific set of traits he and other instructors look for in recruits – primarily because there are so many types of police work: “It’s an extremely diverse group of traits. We’re not trying to create robots, we’re trying to create police officers.” “If you’re just here for a paycheck, it’s going to be very difficult for you. Those motivated by money don’t stay very long. Are you mentally able to survive? If you do find yourself in a deadly-force confrontation, will you be mentally ready to fight through that?”